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Johnnie Taylor

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Johnnie Taylor
Taylor performing at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, 1973
Taylor performing at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, 1973
Background information
Birth nameJohnnie Harrison Taylor
Also known asPhilosopher of Soul[1]
Born(1934-05-05)May 5, 1934
Crawfordsville, Arkansas, United States
DiedMay 31, 2000(2000-05-31) (aged 66)
Dallas, Texas, United States
GenresR&B · soul · gospel · blues · pop · doo-wop · disco
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter, record producer
Years active1953–2000

Johnnie Harrison Taylor (May 5, 1934 – May 31, 2000)[2][3] was an American recording artist and songwriter who performed a wide variety of genres, from blues, rhythm and blues, soul, and gospel to pop, doo-wop, and disco. He was initially successful at Stax Records with the number-one R&B hits "Who's Making Love" (1968), "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone" (1971) and "I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)" (1973), and reached number one on the US pop charts with "Disco Lady" in 1976.

In 2022, Taylor was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.[4]


Early years[edit]

Taylor in 1967

Johnnie Taylor was born in Crawfordsville, Arkansas, United States.[5] He grew up in West Memphis, Arkansas, performing in gospel groups as a youngster. As an adult, he had one release, "Somewhere to Lay My Head", on Chicago's Vee Jay Records label in the 1950s, as part of the gospel group The Highway Q.C.'s, which included a young Sam Cooke.[5] Taylor's singing then was strikingly close to that of Cooke, and he was hired to take Cooke's place in the latter's gospel group, the Soul Stirrers, in 1957.[5]

A few years later, after Cooke had established his independent SAR Records, Taylor signed on as one of the label's first acts and recorded "Rome Wasn't Built In A Day" in 1962.[5] However, SAR Records quickly became defunct after Cooke's death in 1964.

In 1966, Taylor moved to Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was dubbed "The Philosopher of Soul". He recorded with the label's house band, which included Booker T. & the M.G.'s. His hits included "I Had a Dream", "I've Got to Love Somebody's Baby" (both written by the team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter) and most notably "Who's Making Love",[5] which reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 1 on the R&B chart in 1968. "Who's Making Love" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[6] In 1970 Taylor married Gerlean Rocket, with their divorce finalized on May 10, 2000, 21 days before his passing.[7] His children from that marriage are Jon Harrison Taylor, and Tasha Taylor, both musicians.

During his tenure at Stax, he became an R&B star, with over a dozen chart successes, such as "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone", which reached No. 23 on the Hot 100 chart, "Cheaper to Keep Her" (Mack Rice) and record producer Don Davis's penned "I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)", which reached No. 11 on the Hot 100 chart. "I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)" also sold more than one million copies, and was awarded gold disc status by the R.I.A.A. in October 1973.[8] Taylor, along with Isaac Hayes and The Staple Singers, was one of the label's flagship artists, who were credited for keeping the company afloat in the late 1960s and early 1970s after the death of its biggest star, Otis Redding, in an aviation accident. He appeared in the documentary film, Wattstax, which was released in 1973.[9]

Columbia Records[edit]

"For a journeyman he's a minor genius—who knows more about fucking around than Alfred Kinsey."

Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981)[10]

After Stax folded in 1975, Taylor switched to Columbia Records, where he recorded his biggest success with Don Davis still in charge of production, "Disco Lady", in 1976.[5] It spent four weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and six weeks at the top of the R&B chart. It peaked at No. 25 in the UK Singles Chart in May 1976.[11] "Disco Lady" was the first certified platinum single (two million copies sold) by the RIAA.[5] Taylor recorded several more successful albums and R&B single hits with Davis on Columbia, before Brad Shapiro took over production duties, but sales generally fell away.

Malaco Records[edit]

After a short stay at a small independent label in Los Angeles, Beverly Glen Records, Taylor signed with Malaco Records[5] after the company's founder Tommy Couch and producing partner Wolf Stephenson heard him sing at blues singer Z. Z. Hill's funeral in spring 1984.

Backed by members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, as well as in-house veterans such as former Stax keyboardist Carson Whitsett and guitarist/bandleader Bernard Jenkins, Malaco gave Taylor the type of recording freedom that Stax had given him in the late 1960s and early 1970s, enabling him to record ten albums for the label in his 16-year stint.

In 1996, Taylor's eighth album for Malaco, Good Love!, reached number one on the Billboard Top Blues Albums chart (No. 15 R&B), and was the biggest record in Malaco's history. With this success, Malaco recorded a live video of Taylor at the Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas, Texas, in the summer of 1997. The club portion of the Good Love video was recorded at 1001 Nightclub in Jackson, Mississippi.

Taylor's final song was "Soul Heaven", in which he dreamed of being at a concert featuring deceased African-American music icons from Louis Armstrong to Otis Redding to Z.Z. Hill to The Notorious B.I.G., among others.


In the 1980s, Johnnie Taylor was a DJ on KKDA, a radio station in the Dallas area, where he had made his home. The station's format was mostly R&B and Soul oldies and their on-the-air personalities were often local R&B, Soul, blues, and jazz musicians. Taylor was billed as "The Wailer, Johnnie Taylor".


Taylor died of a heart attack at Charlton Methodist Hospital in Dallas, Texas, on May 31, 2000, aged 66.[1] Stax billed Johnnie Taylor as "The Philosopher of Soul". He was also known as "the Blues Wailer". He was buried beside his mother, Ida Mae Taylor, at Forrest Hill Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri.[12][1]

His highly complex personal life was revealed after his death. Having six accepted children and three others with confirmed paternity born to three different mothers,[13] the difficulties associated with executing his will were presented in an episode of the TV program The Will: Family Secrets Revealed called "The Estate of Johnnie Taylor".[14] In a 2021 Rolling Stone article, Fonda Bryant, one of the nine heirs of Taylor's estate, shared some of the complexities that she and her other siblings have had to deal with during the past decade regarding her father's royalty payments from Sony Music. Bryant believed that the alleged lack of transparency concerning those payouts was reason enough for Sony to disclose her father's personal information. Sony's refusal to do so left Bryant and the other heirs in the dark. Music industry attorney Erin M. Jacobson stated in the article that "'a label is not just going to turn over a bunch of financial records to anyone that asks for it.'" An audit is a viable option for "heirs who are distrustful of a label's accounting" practices. The down side to doing one, though, is the exorbitant amount of money that it would cost to do so, something too "unrealistic for most heirs like Bryant."[15]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Taylor was given a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1999. Taylor was also a three-time Grammy Award nominee.[16] In 2015 Taylor was inducted into the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame. In 2022, Taylor was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.[4] His induction citation stated "Taylor liked to emphasize that he could sing more than blues, as indeed he amply proved when performing gospel and soul, but among African-American audiences, he reigned as the top headliner of his era at blues events".[4]

Grammy Awards[edit]

Taylor was nominated for three career Grammy Awards without a win.[16]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1969 "Who's Making Love" Best Male R&B Vocal Performance Nominated
1977 "Disco Lady" Best Male R&B Vocal Performance Nominated
2001 Gotta Get the Groove Back Best Traditional R&B Vocal Album Nominated

Johnnie Taylor was awarded the first-ever Platinum Record Award in history by the RIAA for his two-million-selling smash hit, "Disco Lady".

Musical influence[edit]

In 2004, the UK's Shapeshifters sampled Taylor's 1982 "What About My Love?", for their No. 1 hit single, "Lola's Theme".[17]


Studio albums[edit]

Year Album Peak chart positions Label
1967 Wanted: One Soul Singer 26 Stax
1968 Who's Making Love... 42 5
Raw Blues 126 24
Rare Stamps 33
1969 The Johnnie Taylor Philosophy Continues 109 10
1971 One Step Beyond 112 6
1973 Taylored in Silk 54 3
1974 Super Taylor 182 10
1976 Eargasm[19] 5 1 Columbia
1977 Rated Extraordinaire 51 6
Reflections 45 RCA
Disco 9000 183 22 Columbia
1978 Ever Ready 164 35
1979 She's Killing Me 53
1980 A New Day 75
1982 Just Ain't Good Enough 172 19 Beverly Glen
1984 This Is Your Night 55 Malaco
1985 Wall to Wall 46
1987 Lover Boy 70
1988 In Control 43
1989 Crazy 'Bout You 47
1991 I Know It's Wrong But I... Just Can't Do Right 59
1993 Real Love 76
1996 Good Love! 108 15
1998 Taylored to Please 44
1999 Gotta Get the Groove Back 140 30
2001 There's No Good in Goodbye 30
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.

Live albums[edit]

  • Live at the Summit Club - Stax/Fantasy 8628 (recorded 1972; released 2007)[20]
  • FunkSoulBrother - Fuel/Universal. Retrospective album 1970[21]


Year Single Chart positions
1963 "Baby, We've Got Love" 98 *[27]
1966 "I Had a Dream" 19
"I Got to Love Somebody's Baby" 15
1967 "Somebody's Sleeping in My Bed" 95 33
1968 "Next Time" 34
"I Ain't Particular" 45
"Who's Making Love" 5 1 7
1969 "Take Care of Your Homework" 20 2 27
"Testify (I Wanna)" 36 4 35
"I Could Never Be President" 48 10
"Love Bones" 43 4 38
1970 "Steal Away" 37 3 36
"I Am Somebody Part II" 39 4 45
1971 "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone" 28 1
"I Don't Wanna Lose You" 86 13
"Hijackin' Love" 64 10
1972 "Standing in for Jody" 74 12
"Doing My Own Thing (Part I)" 109 16
"Stop Doggin' Me" 101 13
1973 "I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)" 11 1 35
"Cheaper to Keep Her" 15 2
1974 "We're Getting Careless with Our Love" 34 5 77
"I've Been Born Again" 78 13
"It's September" 26
1975 "Try Me Tonight" 51
1976 "Disco Lady" 1 1 25 14
"Somebody's Gettin' It" 33 5 94
1977 "Love Is Better in the A.M. (Part 1)" 77 3 63
"Your Love Is Rated X" 17
"Disco 9000" 86 24
1978 "Keep On Dancing" 101 32
"Ever Ready" 84
1979 "(Ooh-Wee) She's Killing Me" /
"Play Something Pretty"
1980 "I Got This Thing for Your Love" 77
1982 "What About My Love" 24
1983 "I'm So Proud" 55
1984 "Lady, My Whole World Is You" 74
1987 "Don't Make Me Late" 74
1990 "Still Crazy for You" 60
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.


  1. ^ a b c "Johnnie Harrison Taylor (1934-2000)". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved April 7, 2014.
  2. ^ Montier, Patrick. "Johnnie Taylor". Staxrecords.free.fr. Retrieved April 7, 2014.
  3. ^ Huey, Steve. "Artist Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved March 5, 2022.
  4. ^ a b c "BLUES HALL OF FAME - About/Inductions". Blues.org. Retrieved March 20, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Larkin, Colin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 1164/5. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  6. ^ "Johnnie Taylor "Who's Making Love" Gold RIAA 45 White Matte Record Award -". honormusicawards.com. December 15, 2011.
  7. ^ "Estate sale showcases blues singer's personal effects". Myplainview.com. (subscription required)
  8. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 249 and 338. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  9. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 241. CN 5585.
  10. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: T". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 15, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  11. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 550. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  12. ^ Weber, Erika (August 6, 2018). "Johnnie Harrison Taylor (1934-2000) •". Blackpast.org. Retrieved July 9, 2021.
  13. ^ "Contact Support". Estateofdenial.com. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  14. ^ "The Estate of Johnnie Taylor". IMDb.com. November 16, 2011. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  15. ^ Bernstein, Jonathan (November 2, 2021). "He Scored the First Platinum Hit. 45 Years Later, His Family Is Fighting for Every Penny". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 16, 2022.
  16. ^ a b "Johnnie Taylor". Grammy.com. June 4, 2019.
  17. ^ Copsey, Rob (July 22, 2021). "Official Charts Flashback 2004: Rachel Stevens' Some Girls vs. Lola's Theme". Official Charts. Retrieved November 2, 2022.
  18. ^ a b "Johnnie Taylor - Awards". AllMusic. Archived from the original on September 12, 2012. Retrieved March 5, 2022.
  19. ^ "Eargasm - Johnnie Taylor". AllMusic. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  20. ^ "Johnnie Taylor | Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved April 7, 2014.
  21. ^ "CD Reviews: The Beta Band, Default, Toploader and many more". Chart Attack. July 17, 2001. Archived from the original on July 19, 2001.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  22. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 700. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
  23. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research. p. 435.
  24. ^ Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952-2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 772. ISBN 0-00-717931-6.
  25. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles". Library and Archives Canada.
  26. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles". Library and Archives Canada.
  27. ^ No Billboard R&B chart published in this period.

External links[edit]